You don’t need carpentry skills if you buy the right Minor ‘Woodie’, says MIKE LE CAPLAIN
The Traveller may not have been a part of the celebrated Minor family from the very beginning (it was launched in 1953, some five years after the saloon), but the fact that it was still in the line-up when the range was discontinued in 1971 goes some way to showing just how popular it really was.
Key to the Traveller’s appeal, of course, is its astonishing practicality: you can fit four adults into a saloon or convertible, but with the Traveller, you don’t have to skimp on luggage either. Go for one of the later models (1962 onwards) and there’s greater power to go with the load-lugging, too. Just 48bhp might not sound like much, but all things are relative – the 948cc engine produces 37bhp, and the 803cc a paltry 30bhp!
MORRIS MINOR TRAVELLER 1098
Torque (lb [email protected]) 60 lb ft @2500rpm
Top speed 77mph
Gearbox 4-speed manual
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
BODYWORK & CHASSIS
The half-timbered rear bodywork is crucial to the structural integrity of the car, so rotten woodwork here is an immediate MoT failure.
Failure to sand-down the ash timbers and re-varnish them every year will soon see them off, and since it’s easier to replace a Traveller’s entire woodwork than it is to patch it up, the bills can soon mount up – budget at least £2000 to replace
a Traveller’s woodwork in its entirety.
Check the rear doors, too: sourcing a sound single door to replace a rotten original sounds sensible, but getting mismatched doors to align can prove extremely difficult in practice.
Elsewhere, the common Traveller rot-spots are much the same as the saloon’s. Repair panels for the aluminium rear bodywork are available, but not the (also aluminium) roof. Check for corrosion in the rear spring hangers and chassis extensions and front chassis legs. Obvious sill covers should start alarm bells ringing, too, likewise bodged inner wing repairs. Remember, too, that while there is some panel interchangeability between models, the Traveller’s doors are shared only with the convertible and two-door saloon.
The earliest Travellers use the simple, but gutless 803cc sidevalve engine – these are popular with collectors, but struggle to cope with modern traffic and are arguably best avoided. Indeed, they are frequently retro-fitted with either the sweet-revving and durable 948cc or more potent 1098cc OHV engines. The former is refined and can reach over 150,000 miles between re-builds, while the latter has more power and torque.
Signs of wear to look out for include oily exhaust smoke under load or on the overrun (worn cylinder bores), overly vocal tappets (they might just need adjusting, but could be approaching the end of their useful lives) and ominous knocking sounds (often from a bottom end that’s about to expire). Ignore rattling (for which read ‘loose’) timing chains or an oil pressure warning light that’s slow to extinguish at your peril, too.
By their very nature, these cars can lead hard lives, so an overly low ride-height suggests sagging or broken rear leaf springs. Bouncy lever-arm suspension is all part of the Minor driving experience, but stiffness in the front suspension often betrays trunnions that haven’t been greased at the proper intervals (every 3000 miles) and are therefore worn. Finding a car that’s been converted to telescopic dampers is desirable.
The gearbox is a known weakness on all Minors, although the ribbed casing transmission fitted to 1098cc cars is the toughest of the lot. None has synchromesh on first gear, but synchros on the other gears wear with alarming ease, so watch out for crunches during the road-test. Unless you’re a stickler for originality, don’t be put off by cars fitted with a Ford Type 9 five-speed gearbox – it’s as tough as they come and the tall fifth gear makes 80mph cruising possible on the 1098cc cars.
Minor interiors are simple and hard-wearing, but even a car with a shabby cabin is worth considering if the price is right, thanks to impressive aftermarket support. Common problems include a damaged or sagging driver’s seat, tears in the upholstery and worn out luggage area carpets. The dashboard instruments are common to other group cars of the period, too, and are easily re-built.
Curiously, the only item of trim that regularly causes problems is the indicator stalk, which on later models has a habit of overheating and causing the plastic to melt.
Stalks with the green flashing tip are super-rare these days, too.
Perished door or window rubbers can allow water in, so check for rotten floor coverings and a general smell of dampness or mustiness.
The days of decent Moggies coming onto the market for peanuts may be long gone (indeed, you can pay up to £17,000 for a really good one today), but they remain cheap to maintain, easy to work on and mechanically straightforward. Parts supplies are second to none, too. Get yourself a properly sorted 1098cc Traveller, and we can think of no better all-round practical classic car bargain.